Ashtin Webb’s high school experience was unlike what most baseball players face throughout their careers.
Homeschooled all 4 years, he began to play baseball for Mesa as a sophomore after he and his family were forced out of their home in the Desert Ridge High School boundary after toxic mold was discovered after a flood. The family vehicles, clothes, furniture and all of his baseball gear was left behind due to possible contamination.
He and his family had to start their lives over inside of an apartment in the Mesa boundary. But he was quickly welcomed to the community and baseball program.
“It was a learning experience on how to face adversity,” Webb said. “I think it helped me morally, just being able to handle things more. They helped a lot and it meant the world to me.
Webb and his family never went out of their way to ask for donations from family or friends. Many helped voluntarily.
Several players on Mesa’s baseball team also offered to help him get set up with new equipment. As a catcher, he used more than just a bat, glove and cleats. The entire setup of pads and a helmet can easily skyrocket to more than a few hundred dollars.
Nonetheless, the Mesa community rallied behind their new teammate. Webb was outfitted with new equipment and in return, he’s become one of the Jackrabbits’ best leader in the clubhouse and one of the top players in the state.
“He’s a leader, he’s one of our captains,” Figueroa said. “He’s one of those kids where if he doesn’t make it in baseball, he’s going to make it in something. The things he’s gone through and how he handled it, it’s turned into a good situation.”
Webb was elevated to the varsity roster at Mesa the first day he stepped foot on the diamond. Figueroa said he and his fellow coaches knew right away they had a talented ball player on their hands.
He hit .356 as a sophomore with 14 RBI and a pair of home runs. He helped the Jackrabbits finish 14-8 overall in the 2019 season. But in 2020, he and his teammates were well on their way to perhaps a deep playoff run before the season was cut short due to the start of the pandemic.
In nine games Webb had improved his batting average to .435 as a junior and had already nearly reached his sophomore mark for RBIs at 12. Mesa jumped out to an 8-1 start to the year led by big bats at the plate and a solid pitching staff.
But with the cancellation of the season also came the end of the careers for several of Mesa’s starting seniors. The Jackrabbits were forced to rebuild with Webb, Cainen Escalante, Noah Rogers and Adrian Caballero the captains of this year’s team that is filled with young talent still finding their way at the varsity level.
“They’re all good kids, bright kids,” Figueroa said. “This senior class, they just enjoy the game. The younger guys really look up to them.”
Like last season, Webb has again improved his batting average to .488 this year. He’s also made the switch from catcher to outfield, a move Figueroa believes puts him in his natural position.
His improvement has led him to commit to Central Arizona Community College, a baseball program that is the No. 5 ranked team in the junior college rankings that many believe could compete at the NCAA Division I level.
But beyond recognition from college programs, Webb has also captured the attention of pro scouts. Several have called over the course of the past few months and Webb has completed the necessary steps to be eligible for this year’s MLB Amateur Draft in June. Whether or not he hears his name called is something he isn’t banking on, however. He knows it’s a greater possibility that comes in a year or two when he is with Central Arizona College.
Even then, knowing scouts already have eyes on him this early in his career is an accomplishment in itself.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Webb said. “I know if I get drafted out of high school it will probably be in the later rounds but when I go to college, I’m hoping to make it in the top five rounds. Central has produced 12 first round draft picks, which is amazing for a junior college.
“I hope to be the next one to do that.”
The adversity he has faced having to essentially rebuild his life has led Webb to become an easy-going teenager who admittedly would rather talk about his small gains in the stock market than his personal success on the diamond. He’s become one of the go-to leaders for the freshmen and sophomores in the Mesa baseball program both on and off the field, helping them in the batting cage or with homework.
Webb knows how quickly one’s world could be turned upside down by an unforeseen event. But he also has learned not to harp on small misfortunes or bad days.
As the 2021 season nears its end for Mesa, Webb plans to make the most of his final days with his teammates. Despite all he had gone through that led him to the Jackrabbit program, it’s a move he wouldn’t go back and change even if he had the opportunity.
“I’m just trying to enjoy every moment and take it all in,” Webb said. “Playing for this program, with these guys, it means the world. It’s Jackrabbit pride. It will be with me forever.”